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New Mexico Supreme Court Holds Same-Sex Couples Allowed to Marry

The State of New Mexico “is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law,” the New Mexico Supreme Court has held in a landmark decision. Griego v. Oliver, No. 34,306 (N.M. Dec. 19, 2013). 

This ruling has far-reaching implications for employers in New Mexico in terms of employee benefits and permitted reasons for leave, among other things. The Court directed that all New Mexico statutes, rules, regulations or the common law that refer to “husband, wife, spouse, family, immediately family, dependent, next of kin, widow, widower or any other word, which, in context, denotes a marital relationship, the same shall apply to same-gender couples who choose to marry.” It also ordered that gender-neutral language be used in New Mexico’s statutory marriage license application form. Employers must ensure compliance with this new law by uniformly applying their policies and procedures to both same-gender and opposite-gender married couples.

The ruling came in a case brought by same-gender couples in long-term, committed relationships. They argued that they had a constitutional right under the Due Process and Equal Protection provisions of New Mexico’s Bill of Rights to enter into civil marriages, and to enjoy the rights, protections, and responsibilities of marriage; therefore, the state’s failure to recognize same-gender civil marriages deprives them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities available to opposite-sex couples violates the New Mexico Constitution. 

The Court agreed with the plaintiffs, holding that “although none of New Mexico’s marriage statutes specifically prohibit same-gender marriages, when read as a whole, the statutes have the effect of precluding same-gender couples from marrying and benefitting from the rights, protections, and responsibilities that flow from a civil marriage.” 

Opponents of same-gender marriage argued that defining marriage to prohibit same-gender marriages is related to “the important, overriding, governmental interests of ‘responsible procreation and childrearing’.” The Court rejected this contention, stating that procreation has never been a condition of marriage in New Mexico. The Court pointed out that New Mexico recognizes the right of same-gender couples to raise children. It concluded that “the purpose of New Mexico marriage laws is to bring stability and order to the legal relationship of committed couples by defining their rights and responsibilities as to one another, their children if they choose to raise children together, and their property.” The Court continued, “Therefore, barring individuals from marrying and depriving them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of civil marriage solely because of their sexual orientation violates the Equal Protection Clause . . . of the New Mexico Constitution.” Accordingly, the Court held that “the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law.” 

The Court further held that “‘civil marriage’ shall be construed to mean the voluntary union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.” Finally, it held that “all rights, protections, and responsibilities that result from the marital relationship shall apply equally to both same-gender and opposite-gender married couples.” 

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020National Law Review, Volume III, Number 354


About this Author

Victor P. Montoya, Labor Employment Attorney, Jackson Lewis Law Firm
Principal and Office Litigation Manager

Victor P. Montoya is a Principal and the Office Litigation Manager in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is a Certified Employment and Labor Law Specialist by the New Mexico State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization.

Mr. Montoya’s practice focuses on advising employers and representing them in litigation regarding federal and state laws related to employment, unemployment, wage, disability, and civil rights issues, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the ADA, the ADEA, the FLSA, the FMLA,...

Danny W. Jarrett, Jackson Lewis, government entities lawyer, Native American tribal organizations attorney
Office Managing Principal

Danny Jarrett is Office Managing Principal of the Albuquerque, New Mexico, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is a New Mexico native and has been certified as a specialist in labor and employment law by the New Mexico Supreme Board of Legal Specialization since August of 2008.

Mr. Jarrett’s legal practice focuses on counseling and representing employers, government entities and Native American tribal organizations regarding labor and employment disputes. His experience involves Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, the ADA, the FLSA, the FMLA and Davis-Bacon Act wage issues. He has successfully represented clients before the NLRB, the EEOC, and the WCA. He has negotiated many collective bargaining agreements, on behalf of management, with various unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Operating Engineers and the Teamsters. He has represented management’s interests in union organizational campaigns, including organizing attempts by the Communication Workers of America, the Teamsters and the Painters and Glazers Union, as well as in response to Unfair Labor Practice charges of all types. Mr. Jarrett assisted in setting up a double-breasted operation for a large, regional construction company.

Francis P. Alvarez, Jackson Lewis, Health Care Management Attorney, Injured Workers Lawyer

Francis P. (Frank) Alvarez is a Principal in the White Plains, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is the Leader of the Disability, Leave and Health Management Practice Group, which assists employers in meeting the legal and practical challenges posed by federal and state laws protecting injured and ill employees.

Counseling hundreds of employers each year, Mr. Alvarez spearheads the firm’s effort to provide imaginative and creative solutions to the complex array of workplace disability and health management issues...

Lisa M. deFilippis, Jackson Lewis, manufacturing industry lawyer, sports management attorney
Of Counsel

Lisa M. deFilippis is Of Counsel in the Cleveland, Ohio, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She has practiced employee benefits law for 25 years.

Ms. deFilippis advises a wide range of businesses and organizations in various industries, including manufacturing, sports management, health care, professional practice, tax-exempt organizations, universities and government entities, varying in size from large publicly traded companies, public universities, mid-size companies to small closely held businesses and nonprofits.

Minnie Fu, Jackson Lewis, Immigration Litigation Lawyer, Employment VISA Applications attorney

Minnie Fu is a Principal in the Washington, D.C. Region office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses on assisting employers in obtaining employment-related visas and advising employers on compliance with U.S. immigration laws and regulations.

Ms. Fu has twenty years of experience in employment-based immigration matters, including nonimmigrant and immigrant visa matters, developing corporate immigration policies and procedures for best practices, and strategic corporate planning for international personnel employment by...